Co-hosts New Zealand started their Women’s World Cup on Thursday with a surprise win over Norway, securing the country’s first win in tournament history.
New Zealand had not won a game in their five World Cup appearances, but striker Hannah Wilkinson fired from close range Jacqui HandWith a precise cross in the 48th minute, he secured a memorable victory.
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Norway, champions from 1995, have been disappointing and inconsistent and rarely looked as if they would be evenly matched again.
They had their best chance with a right-footed shot Tuva Hansenwho bounced off the crossbar in the 81st minute.
of New Zealand Ria Percival had a chance to put the game out of reach, but their penalty in the 90th minute went off the bar.
Norway threw players forward in search of an equaliser, but New Zealand’s strong defense held firm.
“It’s not what we expected,” said Norway’s captain Maren Mjelde called. “We woke up [in] the last 25 minutes but it was too late.
The crowd of 42,137 – a record for a football game in New Zealand – let out a deafening cheer as the game came to an end. Coach Jitka Klimkova buried her face in her hands as her players celebrated.
The win put New Zealand on track towards their goal of progressing out of the group stage of the tournament. On Tuesday they meet the debutants in the Philippines.
Tournament co-hosts Australia will open their World Cup season against the Republic of Ireland in Sydney later on Thursday.